|Don Heupel / AP|
Prescription drugs are being sold on the streets at an alarming rate, finding their way into the hands of just about anyone. People who are prescribed pain medication which is paid for by the government are then selling the medications to dealers on the street. This is testament to the fact that a large number of patients who are prescribed powerful narcotics don't actually need them. The DEA is working hard to put a stop to all this but they can only do so much, this is a problem of epic proportions. Officials have charged 33 people so far in a large-scale investigation of Medicaid patients who fill their prescriptions just to turn around and sell them on the streets. Ethel Johnson is one of the 33 people the DEA has monitored and charged in a large-scale investigation so far, this is a new kind of supplier in the illegal pharmaceutical drug trade; the suppliers' doctor's visits and drugs are funded by state welfare programs which end up only feeding the streets.
"I have to admit we were sort of surprised at how big this had become," said Charles Tomaszewski, former supervisor of the DEA office. "The suburbs, the city, there was no area that wasn't touched by this." Patients, free of charge, receive powerful narcotics like OxyContin and then sell to a dealer for as much as $1,000. If the patient is on Medicaid, the program is billed about $1,060 for a typical 60-pill, 80-mg prescription, along with the $23-to-$39 cost of the doctor's visit, 1000 dollars to someone on welfare is a lot of money so it is easy to see how this problem has gotten out of hand. "A report last year by the Government Accountability Office estimated that 65,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in New York and four other states had visited six or more doctors in fiscal 2006 and 2007 to acquire duplicate prescriptions for controlled substances", according to MSNBC.
Prescription drugs are too easy for patients to get their hands on; by using just a few key words with just about any doctor one can acquire just about any drug they want. Pain medication, like OxyContin, is legal heroin that is cleaner and more lucrative because the suppliers and dealers get them for practically nothing, and then is it is sold for about a dollar a milligram. 90 pills (at 80 milligrams a piece) are worth about $7,200 on the streets; if the dealers are buying the bottles for $1000 dollars they are making an enormous profit.